As we mark a day in history dedicated to the right to truth of gross human rights violations, the foundations of definitions and historical background need to be brought forward.

According to the United Nations, the right to the truth implies knowing the full and complete truth as to the events that transpired, their specific circumstances, and who participated in them, including knowing the circumstances in which the violations took place, as well as the reasons for them. This right was filed into law alongside others during the Universal

Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) in 1945 but the observance of the International Day for Right to the Truth concerning Human Rights Violations came into being three decades after the assassination of a popular human rights activist and archbishop Monsignor

Óscar Arnulfo Romero on the 24th of March, 1980.

With that stated, it is imperative to note that March 24 was filed into law and regarded as the International Day for Right to the concerning Human Rights Violations on 21st December 2010 with the following purposes as stated by the UN:

– to honour the memory of victims of gross and systematic human rights violations and promote the importance of the right to truth and justice;

– to pay tribute to those who have devoted their lives to, and lost their lives in, the struggle to promote and protect human rights for all;

– to recognize, in particular, the important work and values of Archbishop Oscar Arnulfo Romero, of El Salvador, who was assassinated on 24 March 1980, after denouncing violations of the human rights of the most vulnerable populations and defending the principles of protecting lives, promoting human dignity and opposition to all forms of violence.

In light of these, the following questions bother the mind:

  • What’s the hope of truth for those whose rights and rights to truth have been grossly violated?
  • What is the government doing as regards the rights to truth of its citizens?
  • How does forensic science methodologies come into play?

Over the years, the universal human rights have been ruled into law in all countries under the United Nations, Nigeria inclusive. Unfortunately, many do not know about it nor do they know how it operates in the country.

Perhaps, this is your case too.

After the death of General Sani Abacha in 1998, the military rule came to an end with the first President Elect, Olusegun Obasanjo taking his seat as the leader of the executive arm of the government, the Human Rights Violations Investigation Commission of Nigeria, also known as the Oputa Panel was formed/founded in 1999. The commission was mandated to investigate human rights during the period of military rule from 1984 to 1999 and later the investigation period was extended to include military assaults between 1966 to 1990.

The creation of the Human Rights Violations Investigation Commission of Nigeria led to the revelation of some 10,000 persons that have been treated unfairly in one area or the other as it concerned the administration of the military government, a majority being within the economic domain – more specifically, unfair treatment in the workplace. The goal of the commission’s investigations then is summarised into the following;

  1. acquiring information about human rights violations through recollections provided by the victim,
  2. bringing to light the identity of those who were involved in committing these crimes, and
  3. gaining a better understanding as to why these crimes were committed in the first place.

Sadly though, only about 150 of the then 10,000 cases were heard and televised and scarcely is the operations of this commission felt in the investigatory system of the Nigerian court proceedings.

It is important to create the awareness of this right still and with today being dedicated to it, the Community for Forensics Awareness have deemed it fit to address and state how forensic sciences and methodologies could be of help in this regard.

Being that the right to truth implies knowing the full and complete truth as to the events that transpired, their specific circumstances and who participated in them, including knowing the circumstances in which the violation took place, as well as the reasons for them. Forensic science is particularly good in determining “the guilty action” – otherwise known as the Actus Reus – of a crime. It can tell, if crime has been committed, how the crime was committed and most times, who committed the crime.

Every individual has a right to truth and fair hearing, forensics will seek out the truth of crimes and Human Right violations to bring them to light, for as many who are ready to come out of their reproach and voice out.

As today is being married therefore, things you should note include the following:

  • you have the rights to truth in every situation whatsoever so dare to demand that your right be given you
  • if you are violated of your human right, whether in form of sexual or social abuse, voice out
  • religion or society should not make you shut your mouth of you’re robbed of your rights
  • feel free to disclose the violation whatsoever to the nearest human rights station so that your case will be filed and that necessary investigations be carried out.

No one should deprive you of speaking out for your rights.

By Denu Vour Bon


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